Kemping It Up

(The word CAMP is locally pronounced Kemp in the posh Morningside area of Edinburgh)

19720901-11Lindsay is back! And boy do we know what to expect!

The Lindsay Kemp Theatre Troupe last put on “Our Lady of the Flowers” late in 1970 at the Traverse Theatre Club in Edinburgh to a storm of critical praise. This production, which will be repeated during the Edinburgh Festival, is significantly different, and a whole lot more interesting for gay men.

I say gay men, because this is a mimed play about male homosexuals. The period is 1938 Paris; the visions are those of an old crone in prison who conjures up the most erotic imaginings as a means of self-stimulation and sexual release. The 1972 production does not falter in presenting these images to its audiences.

The scenes are linked by narrative (reader Lindsay Levy, London GWLG) which is the more interesting because it is read in a half drowsy monotone; a casual “nothing-shocks-one” voice. The play opens in a nunnery, where, in the half light we see mysterious figures. They are the nuns: mindless and aimless, desperate for erotic stimulation. Stimulation arrives in the form of Ian Oliver whose extraordinarily beautiful naked body is carried round the crypt. There is more than a passing allusion to a Christ-like figure. “The chosen one” – a lovely young youth — is stripped naked by the nuns and the two proceed to make symbolic love/sacrifice before the cross.

There are various scenes in the dives of pre-war Paris. One remarkable performance shows the two male lovers gazing into one another’s eyes quite oblivious to the vigorous, but appalling, acting of the cafe’s prostitutes. “Bye, Bye, Blackbird” can never be the same after the twists and enhancements given to it by the Kemp Troupe. The play’s ending is heartbreaking, and here we have the traditional outlook on the homosexual: it must all end in tragedy, in gore. But even this is carried off well – and is much appreciated by the older members in the audience.

The cast is 9 men 2 women. Lindsay Kemp and Orlando have shouted the triumph of physical homosexual eroticism, and have picked a cast of very attractive, visually stimulating men. Andrew Wilson of London GLF created the music sequences.

All Over The Rainbow

David Bowie at the Rainbow, Finsbury Park

19720901-12The Rainbow, after being given a new lease of life by the Chrysalis agency, was the scene for David Bowie to give his most impressive concert to date. David, after being talked about in the musical press and pop circles generally as the new ‘Superstar’ of rock, finally proved he was all, if not more, than people had been saying about him.

Apart from his excellent backing group, Lindsay Kemp and his theatre troupe joined David on stage. The stage incidentally had raised platforms erected on it, which were used extensively by the actors and the star throughout the performance.

And Wow, what a show. David Bowie is now a true ‘superstar’; he lives and acts the part completely on stage. He knows exactly what is expected of him and delivers his ‘superstar’ act perfectly. David’s knowledge of the theatre and long association with the pop world make for a type of professionalism that is all too often sadly lacking in the top rock acts of today. In comparison Little Richard should retire, and Mick Jagger should take a few lessons.

Lindsay Kemp’s involvement added another dimension to the show. Lindsay, this country’s best mime artist, radiated love, hate, madness and all the other emotions and fears that come to mind with David’s music and words. A song like The Width Of A Circle, which has been written about in Cream magazine as ‘a Dantesque farago of homosexual schizophrenia’, becomes frighteningly alive, reaching out beyond just the music with the aid of the scores and David’s performance.

As well as singing the most notable songs from his last two albums, on RCA, David used material from his soon to be re-released The Man Who Sold The World album on Mercury, and even going further back into his recording career to sing the classic Space Oddity. Also his rendition of Jacques Brel’s My Death a song that few rock stars would be brave enough to attempt, was one of the highlights of the evening.

If you didn’t see David Bowie at the Rainbow, you missed a remarkable performance by a truly original artist. Whether the gay aspects of his act are just part of the show, or a real part of the world of David Bowie, are unimportant. His defiance of accepted social conventions and the purity streak that runs through all levels of society, including the young and the supposedly aware and informed, does much to break down the barriers that stop so many from accepting and understanding. David Bowie is just what the World needs.

The supporting band at the Rainbow concert was Roxy Music, a bizarre collection of musicians, playing even stranger music. They derive their sound from all forms and styles of music, but what you end up hearing is quite unlike anything you have ever heard before. The music and songs are also delivered in a somewhat camp way, one song being introduced “for all you sailors”.

The weird attire and hairstyles the group wear also help to stop them being categorised. Andrew Mackay (saxophone and oboe) had his hair in two large ringlets on the top of his head, and the antics and silver pants of Eno (synthesiser and tapes) kept the audience’s eyes at times riveted on him, whilst the performance of Bryan Ferry (lead vocals and piano), looking like a refugee from the 50’s/60’s period of rock, was amazing.

It took a little time for the group to break through to the audience, but by about their third or fourth number the crowded theatre was theirs, entranced by the wall of sound being created on the stage.

If you have a chance to see Roxy Music, and you’re interested in 1972 experiments in rock music, make sure you don’t miss them. Have a listen to their album, Island, first – it will help you prepare.